University of California, Santa Barbara and Presidio Graduate School topped the environmental sustainability and social impact categories, respectfully, of a recent ranking of more than 100 U.S. graduate programs by 3,300 students nationwide.
Presidio Graduate School and Pinchot came in second and third in the environmental sustainability category, while Yale and University of Michigan rounded out the top three in the social impact category.
First published by Net Impact in 2006, Business as UNusual is the only publication for students, by students that ranks and highlights graduate schools at the forefront of social and environmental innovation. The guide provides student ratings of their graduate program’s integration of social and environmental themes into curricula, career services, and student activities.
The report’s 2014 edition suggests that social and environmental issues are a growing priority for students who pursue a graduate education, and that student expectations have increased as a result. Students identify climate/energy, and sustainable product development/marketing as the two priority areas for business to get right in the next decade.
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Ninety-three percent of current graduate students think focusing on social and environmental issues is very important or essential to a business’ long-term success, and over 80 percent feel that business is doing better on this issue today than 5 years ago.
Students seem to be willing to walk the walk, with 83 percent of graduate students saying they are willing to take a 15 percent salary cut for a job that makes a social or environmental difference in the world — a notable increase over last year. However, over a third of students surveyed report they feel pressured to take any role, a 30 percent increase over last year’s data.
This year, more than half the schools surveyed reported new innovations in impact-oriented curriculum or experiential learning to meet increasing demand. But this doesn’t seem to be enough for students — student satisfaction with their programs’ integration of these issues has declined for the third year in a row.
Students report over half the schools have new curricular or co-curricular innovations in how they integrate social or environmental impact themes. Trends include increasing peer-to-peer mentoring programs; cross-club, cross-school, and cross-discipline approaches; infusion of design thinking to drive social innovation; and impressive innovations in experiential learning offerings.
Students cited impact career and experiential learning support as the top areas where graduate programs could improve. Respondents expressed interest in complementing social and environmental education with concrete skill building opportunities, such as the Berkeley Haas Impact Investing Network or Loyola University Chicago’s Microenterprise Consulting course.